Incoming Captain Michael Howard (left) and outgoing Captain Dennis Turner (right). Photo: The Guardian Swan Hill
This week, a number of volunteers moved into exciting leadership positions at Swan Hill Fire Brigade and Mid Murray Group.
The brigade underwent a transformation of its leadership, with a new Captain, brigade management team and training officer.
After 11 years at the helm, outgoing Captain Dennis Turner will be replaced by Michael Howard who has served the brigade for 27 years, including seven years as 1st Lieutenant.
Brittany Bickford is the first woman to fill the role of 2nd Lieutenant at Swan Hill and will take on the responsibility of training officer, while Harold Jochs will step up as 1st Lieutenant.
Dennis said it was the right time to inject some new ideas and experience into the leadership group at the brigade.
“Michael is a great operator with plenty of management experience and I am confident he will do a fantastic job in his role as Captain,” he said.
“The brigade has a lot of good, committed people within it. It’s an exciting time for everyone and the brigade is in really good shape.”
Incoming Captain Michael Howard said he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’ve learnt a lot from Dennis over the last seven years; he’s been my mentor and has diligently taught me everything I need to confidently lead this brigade into the future,” he said.
“We have a lot to look forward to with a lot of younger members coming through and a growing female membership with 15 women now making up a significant portion of the 41 operational members at the brigade.”
Nelson Ibbs, a member with around five years’ experience, filled the 4th Lieutenant rank, which Dennis described as a developmental role, giving members a chance to understand what is involved in leading a busy fire brigade.
The brigade picked up four new members from its junior brigade program in the past 12 months.
Dennis thanked the brigade’s junior coordinator, Denise Jordan, for her great work supporting the transition of juniors into the senior ranks.
“Our retention rate is better than its been in a long time,” Dennis said.
“It has a lot to do with Denise’s work guiding them through the process of transition to becoming part of the senior ranks within the brigade.”
The brigade responds to around 180 incidents per year and participates in a range of fundraising activities across the community.
Dennis will move to Group Officer of the Mid Murray Group, taking over from Noel Harvey who has given more than 57 years of his life to CFA, including 43 years of continuous service in leadership roles.
“Noel is a former Captain of Swan Hill and has been in the Group Officer role for the past 21 years, which is an outstanding effort and I thank him for his leadership and how he has conducted himself in this role,” he said.
Noel said it has been an incredibly fulfilling experience to volunteer for CFA for more than five decades.
“I first got involved in the CFA following a major fire at the Swan Hill power station where I worked as an apprentice in 1964,” he said.
“Since then, I have attended many major community incidents including the fire at Swan Hill Football Grandstand and Mallee Family Care Op Shop in 1987.
Noel said one of his most memorable moments was receiving a letter of commendation from then CFA Chief Officer Brian Potter following his work as incident controller at a Swan Hill High School fire in 1987.
“I am thankful for the contributions I have been able to make to CFA during my time in these roles and assisting in our brigades’ response to emergencies locally, across the state and interstate.”
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